by Eric Oslund
Anyone driving past Zimmerman High School on Monday, Aug. 14, between 2 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., may have seen something that hasn’t been around since 2009 – a boys soccer team.
Zimmerman’s boys varsity program was disband after the team lost about 15 seniors one season and only had seven or eight kids return the following fall. They then decided to form a co-op with the Elk River soccer program, but a few kids decided that 2017 was the year to bring the sport back to their hometown.
Caden Neubauer, Brady Gibeau and Bradley Mattson were three of the kids on the Elk River team last year that decided to make a push to get the Zimmerman program rebooted this season. They discussed it with the school’s athletic director Jaime Hilyar and rallied the troops to spread the word.
“Those were (three) of the kids that had been emailing me right when they heard I was coaching. Saying, ‘Hey, can we start some captain’s practices? Can we do some of this?’ And trying to kind of build that program,” said Brett Phelps, the new head coach of the boys soccer team in Zimmerman. “I think it’s pretty awesome that they decided, ‘I want to play for Zimmerman.’ That’s why they decided to come back here and try to start that program, talk with the A.D. and got it rolling. Kind of went from there and now we have a program ready to go for this year.”
Right away, it may seem like an easy decision for these players to make. Don the colors and logo of their school instead of those of the school to their south, but it’s a little more complicated than that.
Some of these players would have been playing on the Elk River varsity team, where if Zimmerman did revamp the boys soccer program, it would start out with just having a junior varsity team and then form a varsity team the following season.
Luckily, though, the boys wanted to represent their school. Now, coach Phelps is hoping those players with the experience of playing in the Elk River system can really help him build this new program in Zimmerman.
“I think it will be very good to have some of these kids that have been a part of a program, and part of a soccer program. To be able to mentor, especially some of those younger kids, because there were some younger kids that were over there, but a lot of our juniors and sophomores are kids that were out playing for Elk River and having some of those kids be able to come in and have that ability,” the head coach said. “They were playing soccer over there and now being able to help mentor those young kids will definitely be a good thing for our program.”
Another thing that will be helpful in building the program is that they didn’t have any seniors on their roster when the fall practices first began. It’s not that they don’t want any seniors, they would welcome any who wanted to play with open arms, but it means they will have everyone return for next season.
They don’t have to worry about losing anyone, and can instead focus on continuing to build this program that the school has been missing for so long.
“What we’re trying to do this year is build this program,” Phelps began. “The win-loss record, that’s not what we’re worried about. What we’re worried about is getting these kids excited about soccer, and getting this community excited about soccer again. To keep this program going for years, and more just about building that community and that team.”
With 24 boys on the roster the first day of practice, they team is currently in an awkward spot. There are a lot of players to have just one team, but not quite enough to form two, so they are asking anyone that is interesting in helping start up this program to join up. There is still time to do so, but Phelps said that it would be better to sign up before the end of August so players don’t start to fall behind.